HOUSTON, March 18 (Xinhua) -- British oil giant BP on Monday lost a motion to ask a U.S. federal judge to rule out gross negligence against the company for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
A lawyer for London-based BP on Monday asked for a partial ruling from federal judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans. But Barbier said he would not grant that ruling, according to the website of the newspaper The Houston Chronicle.
"Frankly, I'm not going to grant that motion," Barbier said. "I don't see any point in arguing it."
Barbier said he would defer ruling until later in the case.
The April 20, 2010 blowout of the Macondo well, leased by BP, triggered an explosion that killed 11 rig workers and unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. History. The accident sparked hundreds of lawsuits against BP and its partners, Transocean and Halliburton.
The nonjury trial over liability for the disaster began Feb. 25 and may last for three months.
During the first phase of the trial, Barbier is hearing evidence on the causes of the well blowout and will determine how to allocate fault.
The second phase will address the amount of oil that spilled. At some point during the trial or after, Barbier also is expected to determine if the disaster resulted from gross negligence.
For BP, a finding of gross negligence would mean the company might pay the U.S. as much as some 17.6 billion U.S. dollars in Clean Water Act fines, as well as unspecified punitive damages to claimants who opted out of a multibillion-dollar settlement the company reached with most private party plaintiffs last year.